In late December 1980, there were reports of sightings of unexplained lights near Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, and claimed landings of an unidentified flying object (UFO). The incident is sometimes called the most famous UFO event to have happened in Britain “Britain’s Roswell”, and like the Roswell UFO incident, the government’s statement that there is no evidence of a Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident has been incorporated into conspiracy theories about a government coverup.
At that time, RAF Woodbridge was being used by the U.S. Air Force and over a two- or three-day period, dozens of USAF personnel were involved. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated the event posed no threat to national security, and that it therefore never was investigated as a security matter.
Later evidence indicated that there was a substantial MoD file on the subject, which led to claims of a cover-up; some interpreted this Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident as part of a larger pattern of information suppression concerning the true nature of unidentified flying objects, by both the United States and British governments.
One person to take this view was Deputy Base Commander Colonel Charles Halt. Another was former NATO head and UK Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Peter Hill-Norton, who stated whatever happened at this USAF base was necessarily of national security interest. However, when the file was released in 2001 it turned out to consist mostly of internal correspondence and responses to inquiries from the public.
The lack of any in-depth investigation in the publicly of the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident released documents is consistent with the MoD’s earlier statement that they never took the case of the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident seriously.
Included in the released files is an explanation given by defence minister Lord Trefgarne as to why the MoD did not investigate further.The sightings have been explained as misinterpretation of a series of nocturnal lights – a fireball, the Orford Ness lighthouse and bright stars.
Rendlesham Forest is owned by the Forestry Commission and consists of about 5.8 square miles (15 km2) of coniferous plantations, interspersed with broadleaved belts, heathland and wetland areas. It is located in the county of Suffolk, about 8 miles (13 km) east of the town of Ipswich.
The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident occurred in the vicinity of two former military bases – RAF Bentwaters, which is just to the north of the forest, and RAF Woodbridge which extends into the forest from the west and is bounded by the forest on its northern and eastern edges.
At the time, both were being used by the United States Air Force and were under the command of wing commander Colonel Gordon E. Williams. The base commander was Colonel Ted Conrad, and his deputy was Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt.
The main events of the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident , including the supposed landing or landings, took place in the forest, which starts at the east end of the base runway or about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to the east of the East Gate of RAF Woodbridge. The forest extends east about 1 mile (1.6 km) beyond East Gate, ending at a farmer’s field, where additional events allegedly took place.
Orford Ness lighthouse, which sceptics identify as the flashing light seen off to the coast by the airmen, is along the same line of sight about 5 miles (8.0 km) further east of the forest’s edge.
On 26 December 1980 shortly after 4 a.m. local police were called to the scene and reported that the only lights they could see were those from the Orford Ness lighthouse, some miles away on the coast.
After daybreak on the morning of 26 December, servicemen returned to a small clearing near the eastern edge of the forest and found three small impressions in a triangular pattern, as well as burn marks and broken branches on nearby trees. Plaster casts of the imprints were taken and have been shown in television documentaries. At 10.30 a.m. the local police were called out again, this time to see the impressions on the ground, which they thought could have been made by an animal.
Dr David Clarke investigated a memo about the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident by deputy base commander, Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt, and the reaction to it at the Ministry of Defence. His interviews with the personnel involved confirmed the cursory nature of the investigation made by the MoD, and failed to find any evidence for any other reports on the Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident made by the USAF or UK apart from the Halt memo.